Linux as a catalyst for a smarter planet

In this morning’s Red Hat Summit sessions, Jean Staten Healy and Bob Sutor of IBM presented on the solutions that communities around the world are implementing using Linux as a catalyst for a smarter planet.

The IT industry exists to solve problems. And you can solve them at a micro level, or you can look problems that are so huge, they affect countries, or the entire world. The range is huge, and complexity varies tremendously. Smarter Planet is about a macro approach. It’s meant for those really significant problems and to answer how IT can help solve those problems.

Global forces are driving a fundamentally different world. The global financial crisis changed business priorities. The business landscape is evolving, and IT with it. Technology has enabled solutions that weren’t feasible in the last downturn. And fast-developing communities drive constant technology change.

The opportunity for progress is clear.


We now have the ability to measure, sense, and see the exact condition of everything. There are 1 billion transistors for each person on the planet. Everything is becoming instrumented, from food supply chains to healthcare networks to entire cities. And in these problems, utilities come up over and over, particularly electricity and water. Most places around the world still have analog meters. And some areas are advancing to remote readings, but there’s nothing like real time.

Malta did it. It’s one of the most densely populated places in Europe.

So where does it make sense to apply smart meters–and open source? Malta did it. It’s one of the most densely populated places in Europe. It’s an island surrounded by undrinkable salt water. Pretty much everything is imported. And Linux is playing a huge role. The Maltese National Electricity and Water Utilities (Arms Ltd / Enemalta / Water Services) used Linux to implement a nationwide smart grid for electrical and water service. They’re installing smart meters and measuring them remotely. They’re looking at how to analyze the information to see where something’s wrong, from a power spike to a leak.


People, systems, and objects can communicate and interact in new ways. Almost 1/3 of the world will be online by next year. You can already see the Internet of connected devices in your cars, appliances, gas pipelines, etc. That network is approaching one trillion devices.

Sao Paolo, Brazil is the seventh largest city in the world, and the fifth most polluted. Seventy percent of their emissions are due to the six million cars there. To deal with this, they decided to control vehicle pollution through a new distributed vehicle inspection system, enabled by Linux. It’s shared at city and regional levels, and they have datacenters running analytics to get feedback and incorporate what they’ve learned into the system.


We can respond to changes quickly and accurately, with better results. Fifteen petabytes of new information are generated every day. An average company with 1,000 employees spends $5.3 million per year just to find the information stored on their servers. That’s a lot of information. So to become smarter, we need to process these massive amounts of generated data. How do you look for patterns in the data? New algorithms. New computing models. Advanced analytics.

A North Carolina research hospital built a solution using Linux to align internal processes and collect patient data for better diagnosis and research data. It also improves the ability to find patterns in the data to provide better healthcare overall.

Progress to date

In 1910, only 16 cities had more than a million people. Now it’s 450. In 2007, half the human population lived in cities. By 2050, that will be 70%. Solutions for cities are critical, and Linux is playing a big role. For example, smarter traffic systems in Stockholm are now driven by Linux. Building new roads and new lanes is no longer feasible. But with new approaches, they were able cut down on emissions by 20%, and daily commutes decreased 50%.

Requirements are changing for a more instrumented, interconnected, intelligent world. And now Linux is at the core of the datacenter and of a smarter planet. It has surpassed the business-critical tipping point. Beyond being core, it’s participating in the innovative process for the future of workloads.